Most gemstone buyers purchase gems for making jewelry. But some buyers are gemstone collectors, and they are, dare we say, a special breed.
People collect all kinds of things, from the sublime to the banal. Some people collect vintage automobiles; others collect refrigerator magnets. But certain kinds of objects seem to attract collectors.
First, the object must be intrinsically interesting. That's why most of us don't collect refrigerator magnets. Second, there must be an extensive range of objects of that type so that one can build a collection. A collection of just two things does not satisfy the collection urge. Whatever the definition of the collection, the collector is always aiming for the nirvana of completeness. Third, at least some of the members of the collection must be rare. Even if you only collect beer bottles, your collection doesn't become interesting until some of the bottles are from far away places or from obsolete brands.
Gemstones easily satisfy all three conditions of collectibility, with a special emphasis on intrinsic interest. But one of the special attractions of gemstones for collectors is that there are so many different ways to collect them. It's why as gem dealers we get the most unusual requests from collectors.
Some gem collectors aim for breadth in their collection -- they try to acquire samples of all the different kinds of gems. We typically stock more than 60 varieties of gems at Titan Gems, but that is only a start for this kind of collector. This collector is not satisfied with prehnite, andalusite and orthoclase. He also wants peristerite, smaragdite, hypersthene and witherite.
Other collectors search for depth in one kind of gemstone. There are collectors of all the different colors of tourmaline, for example. That's a collection that will be very hard to complete. Collecting all the varieties and colors of garnet is another long term project. Some people collect samples of a particular gemstone from all its known locations in the world. That's quite easy with tanzanite, but rather difficult with sapphire.
The possibilities for defining interesting groups of gems are enormous. The different cutting styles of gems over time is so various that it would make quite an interesting collection. Certain countries are so prolific in producing gems that a collection of different kinds of Malagasy or Tanzanian gems could be quite extensive. But most collectors start with the gems that they love and define a systematic collection around it.
Though some gemstones can be extraordinarily expensive, gemstone collecting need not be an expensive hobby. Many unusual gems are still inexpensive because the supply is so limited that no market demand is created for them. Many gemstones that are in good supply today will become rare in the future as supplies are exhausted. Time is on the side of the collector.